Magee House

On July 23, 2018 MaGee House was an unremarkable, semi-dilapidated house on Somerset Street, with a Heritage designation (October 27, 2016).

Spoiler: Ottawa is boring. Its government is dysfunctional. It doesn’t take its Heritage seriously. And I like living here.


On July 24, 2018, it partially collapsed and was further demolished for safety reasons.


Since then, it has been in the news a lot!

There was an initial flurry of news reports:

  1. July 24, 2018: Historic Magee House in Hintonburg suffers partial collapse.
  2. July 24, 2018: Building partially collapses in Hintonburg.
  3. July 25, 2018: ‘My neighbour saved my life’: Architect recounts partial building collapse.
  4. July 25: 2018: Heritage building partially collapses in Hintonburg; road closure in place.
  5. July 27, 2018: Magee House partially demolished Friday evening.
  6. July 27, 2018: Crews begin partial demolition of historic Magee House.
  7. July 27, 2018: Businesses worried about prolonged Magee House dilemma.
  8. July 31, 2018: Wellington Street W. reopens after building partially collapses.
  9. August 1, 2018: Wellington Street West reopens following building collapse.

Followed by some analysis and opinionating in the next month:

  1. August 2, 2018: Absence of mortar caused Magee House’s partial collapse, engineer says.
  2. August 4, 2018: Flemming: Ottawa needs more robust rules to preserve its heritage buildings.
  3. August 11, 2018: Editorial: It’s time to re-examine the role the city plays in preserving our heritage buildings.
  4. August 17, 2018: Engineer backs Magee House owner on cause of collapse.
  5. August 30, 2018: Wellington West BIA wants city to speed up work on Magee House.

Followed by a decision in the following month to demolish it:

  1. September 28, 2018: Tear down the rest of the crumbling Magee House, city recommends.
  2. September 28, 2018: Magee House owner applies to tear down historic property.
  3. October 4, 2018: ‘Not an inspiring day for heritage in Ottawa’ as Magee House demolition approved.
  4. October 5, 2018: Built Heritage subcommittee votes to demolish Magee house.
  5. October 9, 2018: Magee House demolition passes planning committee.
  6. October 10, 2018: Ottawa city council approves application to tear down Magee House by Nov. 15.
  7. October 10, 2018: WRECKING BALL: Magee House is coming down.
  8. November 15, 2018: Demolish Magee House or we’ll do it for you, city tells owner.
  9. November 15, 2018: Magee House may be demolished ‘sooner rather than later’.

Followed by some backtracking  (from both the city and the owner):

  1. November 15, 2019: Magee House owner prepared for court fight if city orders demolition.
  2. November 29, 2018: No end in sight for Magee House as latest engineering review finds no ’emergency’.
  3. December 3, 2018: Magee House to stay standing — for now.

Followed by taxpayer frustration:

  1. December 4, 2018: BIA demands city create a protected pedestrian passage outside crippled Magee House.
  2. December 5, 2018: Magee House deadlock galls neighbouring businesses.
  3. December 8, 2019: You Said It: Magee House situation ridiculous.

Followed by the illusion of progress:

  1. January 11, 2019: Magee House proposal could re-open sidewalk; Somerset House owner fined.
  2. January 31, 2019: Sidewalk to reopen after Magee House bracing plan accepted, councillor says.
  3. February 8, 2019: Plan to prop up Ottawa’s crumpled Magee House should work, expert says.

Followed by crickets!

Digression: I wonder if the sequence “event -> analysis/opinionating -> decision -> backtracking -> frustration -> illusionary progress -> crickets” is a well-known phenomenon, like the five stages of grief?

My thoughts:

  • Evidence (almost proof!) that Ottawa is a boring city. A minor building partially collapses and results in over thirty news articles over the following seven months! It even made CBC’s “Choice words: CBC Ottawa’s year in quotes” (December 26, 2018)! Is nothing else going on?

Digression: I like living in a boring city. I have no desire to “live in interesting times”.

Sub-Digression: That is only the first third of the full Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times. May you attract the attention of the government. May you find what you’re looking for”. Potent curses indeed!

  • Evidence that the municipal government is dysfunctional: a fairly straightforward problem is still unresolved after seven months!
  • Evidence that Ottawa doesn’t take its Heritage seriously: this building has been exposed to the elements for seven months; it is decaying before our eyes and there is no signs of progress. Is the city going to treat this building like I treat leftovers in my fridge; ignore them until they are inedible and then throw them out?



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